|Why is biodiversity significant?
Biodiversity is a high profile issue. It is generally recognised that it provides irreplaceable services and benefits such as food, natural materials, clean air and water, and climate regulation, without which life as we know it would not be possible. Biodiversity is fundamental to both human welfare and economic development and is an essential part of sustainable development. Therefore conservation of biodiversity is critical. This does not mean leaving biological resources untouched, but rather using them in sustainable fashion.
Increasingly, the Government, planning authorities and the general public expect the aggregates industry to take full account of biodiversity conservation during the planning, operation, closure and restoration of sites, avoiding and minimising negative impacts and maximising opportunities to enhance biodiversity. While aggregate extraction is often not the biggest threat to biodiversity in an area, its use of relatively large areas of land means that damage may become a major issue at some sites unless appropriate steps are taken.
'Typical' British flora, fauna and habitat.
Aggregates production can have both positive and negative impacts on biodiversity. The wide variety of habitats and species that can develop on working and historic quarry sites is one important example of a positive impact –
approximately 700 Sites of Special Scientific Interest in England and Wales owe their existence to quarrying. Broadly speaking, there are two types of negative impact - permanent and temporary. The first significant impacts are likely to occur when the soils and vegetation sitting above the valuable rock are removed in preparation for extraction. Subsequent activities during the quarry's life may give rise to changes in water flow and availability, air, water and land quality, and increased noise and light, all of which can affect biodiversity.
These effects are normally limited to the site, but may extend beyond the site boundaries. Many effects are temporary and linked to specific short-term activities rather than occurring throughout the life of the operation. Permanent impacts such as removal of surface soils and vegetation can be reversed during restoration of the site, although this may be some years after the initial impact.
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